Let the healing begin

Brett Favre was not the only reason to love your Green Bay Packers. Favre is gone, but Lambeau Field is here, touchdowns will be celebrated with Lambeau Leaps and the defense will help pick up the slack.

When Brett Favre landed in Green Bay on Sunday, thunder rumbled through and lightning illuminated Lambeau Field.

On the day after the Packers traded perhaps the biggest legend in NFL history, it was gloriously sunny.

You can look for deeper meaning if you like, but to me, it's simple: Brett is gone, but the sun still rose this morning, and it will come up tomorrow. Life goes on. It's time to let the healing process begin.

It's easy to appreciate the passion of the pro-Favre protesters who occasionally made their presence heard outside the practice-field fence. It's easy to be critical of their tactics, though. Why make Aaron Rodgers the focus of your taunts? He was an innocent bystander caught in the middle, a man just doing his job.

Chant your anger at general manager Ted Thompson if you like, but if you are truly a Packers fan, where's the logic in cheering when Rodgers throws an interception? Why boo Rodgers on Family Night? Did you not notice your defense putting his receivers in handcuffs? Was that not worthy of your applause?

A new era is here. Will the Packers be as good this year with Rodgers as they would have been with Favre? Probably not, but we'll never know for sure. Will the Packers be better in the long run by moving forward without Favre? Thompson had better hope so.

One thing for sure is the Packers never will be the same. You can argue there are better quarterbacks in history than Favre. What's inarguable is that there was never a player more fun to watch. With Favre, you learned to expect the unexpected. His passion was unmatched. His smile made millions of Packers fans smile along with him.

So, this new era will take some getting used to. It started Thursday evening, with the sight of Favre in a Jets hat and holding a Jets jersey. No, it's not right (and no, it's not all Thompson's fault).

But there's no reason to burn your Packers stock or divorce yourself from the Green and Gold. Once the emotions cool off, it's still Packers football. It's still Lambeau Field. It's still Titletown USA (no offense — oh wait, plenty of offense — to ESPN winner Valdosta, Ga.). Donald Driver and his megawatt smile is here, as are sidekicks like Greg Jennings, Nick Barnett and Aaron Kampman. There will be Lambeau Leaps, crisp fall Sundays and Frozen Tundra.

An era died with the trade, but Packers football remains alive and well.

The vultures circling around Lambeau expect the Packers to fail, and fail miserably, with Rodgers. Don't bet on it. While Rodgers certainly will have some missteps this season, there are a bunch of hungry young men in that locker room who are determined to show the world that there was more to the Packers than No. 4.

The defense will be superb. Ryan Grant is back. For all of Favre's greatness, he wasn't the only reason why the Packers won 13 regular-season games last season. The Packers boast the NFL's best receiving corps, so while Rodgers is no Favre, he won't be Blair Kiel or Randy Wright, either.

Remember, the Packers won 11 championships without Favre. Favre won one in 16 seasons, the same number as Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson and Eli Manning. That's not a dig at Favre, but it shows you don't need a superstar running the show.

They say that which does not kill you will make you stronger. Football is the ultimate team game, and as long as the locker room survives this controversy, the Packers very well could be better in the long run.

The passion of Packers fans is unmatched. As we head into the regular season, it's time to channel that passion. The regular season starts in 31 days. That's plenty of time to kiss and make up with the team you love.

Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com

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